October 04, 2006


Here is a sneak peak of the book I am working on. The subject is environmental chemistry. This table shows how much energy we get from different sources, how much there is, how fast we are using it, and how many more years we can keep using it. For example, at the current rate of use, we have 42.6 years of oil, 155 years of coal and 65.1 years of natural gas. Over the last 10 years, energy use has increased by about 2.3% a year, so the actual lifetimes may be shorter. Also consider that these lifetimes are based on proven reserves. Who knows, new reserves might be hiding somewhere they haven't looked yet. We do know that the rate of discovery of new reserves is declining rapidly. A lot of the information comes from a great report put together by British Petroleum, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Ranks right up there with the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. I wish I knew of a good source of information concerning known uranium reserves. Can you help?


At October 05, 2006 12:38 AM , Blogger beedubs said...

Does it address the issue of scarcity affecting price, which then reduces (and eventually eliminates) demand? (At some point each fuel will become so expensive that we'll stop using it and just leave it in the ground; it would be really interesting to try and estimate that point, but obviously enormously speculative.)

You should check out an interesting and related excerpt from an odd little book (economics lessons hidden in a relationshipy-type novel) here: http://www.invisibleheart.com/Iheart/ISampleC1.html

(BTW, it's better on the economics than it is as a novel.)

At October 05, 2006 1:07 AM , Blogger Joe said...

Take a look at this from the World Nuclear Association. I had heard the US had approximately 50 years worth at current rates but I can't recall the source. According to this report there is 200+ years supply worldwide.


A fast breeder reactor could improve this supply 60 fold according to the report.

Do you know anything about Thorium as a fuel source?

At October 05, 2006 10:28 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Good point BW-- I cut off the fine print but it says that the lifetime is derived using known resources and the rate of use in 2005-- i.e. it assumes that there is no change in the amount of energy that is used or in the consumption pattern which of course is a gross oversimplification. But the book is about chemistry, not economics. Thanks for the link Joe, that is good information, I am updating the table. Must admit I got a little suspicious though when they kept mentioning how uranium is found in sea-water. Sea water contains every naturally occuring element for land sakes, and even some unnatural ones.

At October 07, 2006 3:42 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Now when I've slept on it I think the best thing would be to add a paragraph explaining the economic side of it-- for example if the price goes up not only will consumption shift but also it will become profitable to drill or mine deposits that would not have been used at the lower price. At some price it would even make sense to extract uranium from seawater.

At October 12, 2006 7:25 PM , Anonymous DavePloeg said...

Matt, that's too much time. I'm intensely curious about What's Next, but at this rate, we won't know until after I die. Grrr.


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